Fanboys, Gamers, and the Effects of Misinformation

A look at a problem area in the gaming industry that we may be making worse

Throughout my life, I’ve always been taught to question everything I see on TV, read in the newspaper and learn about online, not because it may not be true, but because it is in our nature to question what we learn – not out of spite, but out of further enlightenment. With this in mind, I thought I would look into the problem area we, as a gaming community, see and in some cases cause.

Misinformation

Misinformation, in our industry, comes from many sources and appears in many different ways. We’ve all heard that Xbox has no games, PlayStation 4 Pro was created specifically for VR. and that it cannot achieve 4k resolution or that The Xbox Scorpio is going to have 4k 60fps for every game released on it.

Now while some of these remarks may seem truer than others, some of them are straight up incorrect no matter how you try to defend it. Xbox has no games is a lie. Currently, there are 982 games on the Xbox store, thus proving that the statement is false.

Playstation 4 Pro can’t do 4k gaming. This one is a more confusing statement because of the route Sony went when creating the Playstation 4 Pro. While it’s native resolution is 2160P some games use a checkerboard rendering technique patented by Mark Cerny to create an image nearly identical to 4k. Still to date, there are 4k native games on the Playstation 4 Pro, and some of them are also 60FPS.

So, I asked myself, why do these sorts of comments always come up, and why is it that it seems to become more rampant? One possible explanation may be due to the responses to those statements. In a study done in 2005 titled “How Warnings of False Claims Become Recommendations”, researchers found that by repeating warnings of false claims, adults were more likely to mis-remember the claims as being true. While initially recognizing that the claim was false, after multiple exposures to the statements, the participants were more likely to recall that the initial statement as true due to familiarity over context.

Context vs Familiarity

Two major points became apparent during the study – 1) that information gathered through repetition is remembered longer than information gathered through context and 2) that as we age, we rely more on familiarity over context, for memory and information gathering. So how do we apply this to our industry?

By participating in discussion boards and commenting it becomes more and more familiar to us, while the argument is only noticed through the context of the initial statement. Initially, the false truths may be very apparent, over time and with repeated exposure, our brains begin associating those false claims as true and the warning as the lie. While we believe we are doing the right thing – correcting misinformation – we are, in the long run, making it more difficult for some people to distinguish between what’s true and what’s false.

So how can we tackle misinformation on discussion boards?
The first and most obvious option but probably one of the more ineffective ways, is to simply ignore the statement all together, scroll past it like its an advert or a link to a click-bait site. Don’t give it attention and it will die a slow and horribly painful death… if only.

Another option we can do is repeated retractions while not re-enforcing the false truth. Simply put “you’re wrong” you deal with the incorrect info by stating it is wrong but do not state what part is wrong because that would be in turn re-enforcing the misinformation. Confused yet? We are just getting to the juicy bits.

A third option is building on the second, Explicit warnings before mentioning the misinformation so as to prevent the misinformation from getting reinforced. In this case, you begin with something along the line of “You are wrong”, or any number of variations, followed by explicitly telling the original poster what parts of their comment/information is wrong.

The Best option for combating misinformation though is prevention. Instead of trusting everything you see on the internet (ironically as you read this on the internet), learn to question things, seek out source material and information that backs up the claim in question.

What Role Do Fanatics Play

Fanatics, in terms of gamers, can be described as someone who has near blind loyalty towards their company of choice, whether it’s Nintendo Fanatics who defend the less than stellar launch of the Switch and Zelda Breathe of the Wild, Microsoft fanatics who feel that their focus is on a new console instead of their exclusive line-up or Sony fanatics who will defend some of Sony’s actions like closing down Studios and not including a UHD Blu-Ray drive in the Playstation 4 Pro. In most cases, these gamers breed the misinformation that populates our discussion board and, in some cases pop into general discussions solely to create chaos.  What happens when people correct these misconceptions? Do the fanatics learn something and adjust their view? Rarely, yes, but more often than not it is the complete opposite and causes two things to happen.

The Backfire Effect and Confirmation Bias

With anything that we hold value over, we instinctively try to protect it, from our children and family to expensive cars and beliefs. If our beliefs or knowledge are mocked or criticized we tend to look for proof to back our findings. This is true even when there is substantial evidence or information to contradict our beliefs. Take the classic example of vaccines leading to autism. A quick google search finds 650k articles supporting this claim. On the first page, 5 of the 10 articles reference how vaccines don’t cause autism. Googling “vaccines don’t cause autism” you have nearly 12 million different articles to search through. So off the bat, it is safe to say that vaccines don’t cause autism no matter how much Jenny McCarthy wants to believe otherwise. But where does that leave all the believers? Will they search through countless pages of articles that prove them wrong, or find articles that support their beliefs? The answer is the latter – why look up things that prove we were wrong when we can make ourselves bigger by finding support for our beliefs. So not only will fanatics tend to strengthen their own beliefs with every correction presented to them, they will also seek out information that confirms their beliefs instead of what is ultimately true.

This can have a serious effect on the gaming industry for many reasons. Simply put, people will be misinformed on a product and that product may upset them when they discover that something either is missing from the product or a small feature was over-hyped and created a snowball effect that wasn’t true to what the feature was. Not only are gamers themselves at risk, but also some developers because of how information is either presented or restated after the fact. The most notable case in recent history would be Hello Games and No Man’s Sky, the game that was promised to be a space exploration game with 18 quintillion planets. and while it did deliver on that promise, what was shown and what was released, in many people’s eyes, were very different due to the hype that was generated around the game. While some people still see the game as a delivery on the initial premise, myself being one of them, others feel they were completely lied to, to the point that it was a cash grab, selling on a promise and then running with the cash. This was hardly the case as Hello Games has been busy pumping out not only patches to fix the initial game, they have also released two major updates, The Foundation update which allowed players to build bases, and the Pathfinder update which brought land vehicles to our intergalactic voyage.

At the end of the day, we are our own worst enemy when it comes to information gathering as we all use confirmation bias to one extent or another, creating either a perfect world within our minds or confirming our beliefs. We need to look at both sides of the coin. If you are sure about what you feel is true, look up articles or opinions proving otherwise to see if your beliefs are warranted or not. And if you know something to be false, see how one can approach the topic so that it switches from a “must I believe this?” mentality to a “can I believe this?” through the use of evidence and examples to back up the claim.

We are all gamers and we all have a huge role to play in the age of the internet where information can be presented quite professionally yet may be 100% inaccurate in its message, to sift through the BS, click-bait articles and find the real truth behind our beliefs and passions when it comes to gaming.

Written by: David Goldby

I'm a long time Playstation fan since 1997 when Final Fantasy VII was released in the North America. I Enjoy Fantasy Games, Writing and Cookies. Don't ever take my cookies...